Government approves controversial mine

A Dongria Kondh woman.
A Dongria Kondh woman.
© Jason Taylor

The Indian government has given Britain’s Vedanta Resources final approval to start a controversial bauxite mine in the hills of the Dongria Kondh tribe.

The tribespeople, furious that the lush hills where they live will be devastated, have mounted a series of blockades and large-scale protests in recent years. They say the mine will end their way of life forever, and have vowed to block Vedanta from destroying the top of their mountain, which they hold sacred.

The Indian ministry for environment and forests has now granted Vedanta the environmental clearance it requires to start mining. The mine, in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa, eastern India, could begin operations within weeks.

Dongria Kondh spokesman Lodu said, ‘If the government give the mountain, we will say ‘sell your own mountain’. This is the Dongria Kondh’s hill, it is not yours to sell.’

Vedanta is already operating a bauxite refinery at the foot of the mountain. Hundreds of people have lost their homes to the refinery, which has been condemned by government officials for its ‘alarming’ rate of pollution.

Actress Joanna Lumley, narrating Survival’s film ‘Mine: story of a sacred mountain’, said, ‘It’s only because the Dongria have known their lands so intimately and for so long that this extraordinary forest survives. The Dongria know that [the mine] will ruin their homes, pollute their lands and destroy their lives. We cannot let their fate be decided in a corporate boardroom.’

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Unless this decision is reversed, it will be the death knell for the Dongria Kondh. Much has been made during the elections this month of India’s status as the world’s largest democracy, but from the Dongria Kondhs’ point of view there’s precious little democracy at work.’

For more information and images contact Miriam Ross on (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]